Uttar Pradesh chief secretary slammed for not implementing RTI

August 19th, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh’s RTI commission has come down heavily on the state’s chief secretary for not implementing the Right to Information Act in its true spirit even three years after its enactment. This happened after a petitioner filed a plea before the Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (UPSIC) complaining that information he had sought from the chief secretary’s office (CSO) had not been provided to him.

Petitioner Paras Nath Verma had sought to know from the CSO why he was not appointed as an assistant teacher and what action had been taken on various applications he had filed at various levels.

At a hearing on this before the UPSIC in Lucknow July 18, the CSO had contended that the chief secretary was the controlling officer of the state secretariat but his office did not come under the definition of public authority - and was thus not bound to provide information under the RTI Act.

The UPSIC had initially reserved judgement on this. In an order on Aug 4, the commission’s acting chief, Gyanendra Sharma, declared that the CSO was a public authority and directed it to name its Public Information Officer (PIO) and first appellate authority within 15 days of receiving the order.

The CSO was also directed to make public the name, address and telephone numbers of the PIO and the appellate authority.

Sharma also directed the chief secretary to trace out a letter that had been sent from his office along with Verma’s query to the state’s basic education secretary and to inform him when this had reached the officer concerned.

Sharma also asked the chief secretary to explain why Verma was not informed about his letter being transferred from one officer to another.

The chief secretary was also asked to respond to these two issues within one month.

The commission also termed as “laughable” the chief secretary’s contention that his office did not have a website of his own to respond to queries from the public as the UPSIC’s chief also did not have one.

“The reasons given by chief secretary are not only irrelevant but unnecessary too. The submission that because (the UPSIC chief) doesn’t have its own website for supporting his argument of not having his own website is laughable,” the commission said.

“Does he have to be told that the country’s prime minister and cabinet secretary of the central government also have own websites,” the commission added.

“The central government’s cabinet secretariat, which is the nodal agency for coordination amongst various ministries has its own website. Thus, is it not important for the office of the chief secretary, the controlling officer of the state government’s secretariat, to have its own website, appoint a PIO and disclose information under various sections of RTI Act?” the commission asked.

Speaking to IANS about his order, acting commission chief Sharma said: “The sole purpose and intent was to hold someone responsible in the chief secretary’s office under the RTI Act.

“I have only asked them to appoint a PIO and an appellate authority and make their details public, which should have been a suo motu disclosure under the act.

“As far as the website is concerned, I have left this decision to the chief secretary.”

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